By Hamilton Odunze
I AM cynical about politicians who do not have guiding principles. Nigerians should be cynical about such politicians, too. In fact, people such as Mahatma Gandhi who seek meaningful solutions to wider social problemsare always cynical about politicians or politics without principle. Thisis why he said that politics without principle has no truth(s) for justifying intentions and actions and therefore leads to violence. He included politics without principles as one of the seven deadly social sins.
Am I alone? Does anyone else share my view thatAtikuAbubarkar is committing a deadly social sin? Can his recent political move be characterised as politics without principle? I say this due to the regularity with which he switches political parties and affiliations. During the past few years,AtikuAbubakar has switched from People’s Democratic Party,PDP, to All Progressives Congress, APC, and back to PDP. I am not arguing that switching political affiliations is wrong, but the frequency with which Atiku does it is a clear indication that he has no underlying political ideology or principle, or that his political goals and ambitions are simply self-serving. No matter the reason for Atiku switching parties, it is not good for democracy in Nigeria.
Just a few days ago, while speaking at the official opening ofthe Chicken Cottage restaurant at Jabi Lake Mall in Abuja, Abubarkar said he will get Nigeria working again by providing gainful employment to teeming youths across the country. In the current political climate, the promise of providing gainful employment to Nigerians does not suffice. The conversation has moved on because Nigerians are sick and tired of feel-good promises. Atiku and anybody else who is serious about becoming president should focus on discussing how Nigeria should be structured. But even at face value, Atiku’s promise has many problems.
The first thing wrong with Atiku’s promise is that he failed to provide an economic plan leading to job creation. Unfortunately, many of thosewho are aspiring to the presidency of Nigeria do not have any real and measurable economic plans for the country. For example, in the United States, some candidates believe that lower corporate taxes will provide companies with the leverage needed to hire people and to reduce unemployment. Meanwhile, others believe that lower taxes on the middle class will create more businesses and ultimately lead to a more robust economy.
The second thing wrong is that Atiku takes the intelligence of Nigerians for granted. What makes him think that Nigerians are so naïve and imprudent to mortgage their futures in the hands of a man who has switched political parties three times in just a few years? In my opinion, his foolhardy political moves—in addition to his baiting Nigerians by telling them he will provide hope for youths—is an outright insult. But because of what is commonly known as the Nigerian factor—money exchanging hands, election manipulation, and cronyism—I will not count Atikuout of becoming Nigeria’s next president. The truth is that politicians such asAtiku continue to undermine democracy by engaging in and promoting politics without any underlying ideology.
Atikuwants Nigerians to believe that he is the great leader for which we have been waiting. But what is his idea about how Nigeria should be structured going forward? Great leaders are known to have profound ideas about how society can be organised for the common good. Take Thomas Jefferson, whom many Americans believe is one of America’s greatest presidents, for example. Jefferson advocated and galvanized strong opposition to aristocracy of any form, opposition to corruption and an insistence on virtue in a version of American Republicanism that came to be known as Jeffersonian democracy. These are the kinds of original ideas that form the bases from which voters can evaluate candidates.
The frequency with which politicians in Nigeria switch parties is dizzying. Just a few years ago, five governors who were elected under PDP switched to APC. The main problem with such rapid political maneuvers is that it does not give rational voters the tools they need to make informed political decisions. Yet, for democracy to function as the best form of government, voters must make informed decisions.
Political parties in Nigeria are not helping matters. These parties are formed without any underlying ideologies. But since ancient Greeks started practicing democracy, democratic societies have formed political parties by bringing together people with common underlying ideologies regarding how society should be organised to achieve the greater good for all. It is troubling that at a time of constitutional and economic crisis,those who are aspiring to lead Nigeria are unable to articulate and explain ideas that will give Nigerians hope. If Atiku does not articulate a clear ideological basis for his campaign, it is only fair to assume that he is putting together another group of vultures seeking to feast on the carcass of Nigeria.
*Mr. Odunze, a political analyst, wrote from Abuja.